Thursday, August 03, 2006
From now on, I am going to do a "Best Of" series of articles about my favorite things. The first one will be about hamburgers. Here are my top 5 hamburgers, starting with #5 and moving up:
5.) Original Joe's in San Jose -- it's large, served on crispy french bread and made with really good chopped sirloin. The downside is that it's expensive.
4.) Juicy Burger throughout the Bay Area -- a very tasty burger and reasonably priced. The downside is that the bun is not spectacular.
3.) Tommy's in Southern California -- an "old school" hamburger with real charm and outstanding flavor. Downside is that they can be greasy sometimes.
2.) In 'N Out Burger -- a close #2, this burger, whether you go with it straight or "animal style" (that's where they cook everything, including the toppings) is fantastic. Downside: no variety for those who want something other than cheeseburger, cheeseburger, Pepsi, Pepsi. (An aside: The fries at In 'N Out are terrible, in my opinion.)
1.) (Drum roll, please) Mojo Burger in San Jose -- the best by far in flavor, texture and quality. Downside: They're not cheap, but hey -- you get what you pay for!
Here's a story I wrote awhile back about Mojo's:
Some say it’s the incredible smell of charbroiling meat that attracts them. Others claim it’s the big smiles they get from the staff. Other folks cite things like the fresh-cut french fries or wonderfully golden onion rings. And some say it’s something they can’t quite put their finger on.
There is one factor, however, that every Mojo customer seems to agree on – that there is nothing else on this planet like a Mojo burger. For flavor, taste, texture and freshness, these people of differing ages, races and backgrounds all covet the unmatched experience of eating the finest hamburger you’ll find anywhere. No matter whom you are or where you’re from – be you carnivore or vegetarian – you’ll always remember your first time at Mojo – and that’s why you’ll be coming back again and again.
In the July 23 issue of the San Jose Mercury News, Mojo’s was described in the “Quick Bites” section of the newspaper as a place for “Good eats at good prices.” (They were also recently named among the top-rated hamburgers in the Bay Area by Citysearch.com.)
Mojo is the brainchild of Peter Favre. Born and raised on the North Shore of Kauai, Hawaii, Peter grew up in and around the tourist industry. After a stint as a tour boat guide and after considering a career as a professional surfer, Favre ventured to northern California to seek fame and fortune.
After completing the management program at McDonald’s Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois, Peter was on the fast track with the company. His primary talent was going into McDonald’s locations as a manager, primarily in the South Bay, to help improve business. He was an instant success with the fast food giant, as he was able to come into any location and improve their volume almost immediately.
How did he do it? By giving people the finest, most attentive and professional service they had ever experienced. And, boy, did it work. Soon Peter was opening new McDonald’s and saving existing ones with his endearing personality and incredible work ethic.
One of the great things about the 12 years Peter worked for McDonald’s was that during that time he met his wife, Carole. She was working at one of the stores he managed, and the two hit if off instantly when they met in 1988. In 1992 they were married. Carole is Mrs. Mojo, and has been an integral part of the restaurant’s success from day one, by offering everything she has toward making Mojo a success. Carole is a local San Jose girl who graduated from Santa Teresa High School in 1987.
During the entire time that he was working for the Golden Arches, Peter Favre was thinking. Soon, Peter began dreaming about starting a company of his own, one where he could use many of the McDonald’s philosophies and improve upon them.
After looking at several possible food-related business ventures, Carole and Peter decided to take the hamburger to the next level. They knew that people were tired of 99 cent, microwaved burgers and wanted something that was high-quality and great tasting.
Peter went on a road trip throughout California, to taste other hamburgers and see what other “fast fresh” food businesses were doing. He met owners, looked at layouts, visited kitchens and talked with employees as well as customers, to find out exactly what they wanted in a hamburger. He also met with a wide variety of food vendors at food shows.
Carole and Peter knew that the decision of what type of meat to serve was key.
So, they met with three meat companies and interviewed each thoroughly. They did a blind taste test with their friends, and the meat they selected to put in every Mojo burger was an easy one. Everyone who tasted Meyer Natural Angus beef from Montana agreed that it was by far the very best.
Meyer Natural Angus beef uses no antibiotics, preservatives or added hormones. It is more expensive to raise and feed these cattle, and the end result shows it. This beef is more tender and doesn’t retain water. You also won’t feel all filled up after eating it, because it’s grass-fed beef that’s super lean without sacrificing flavor.
Everything Mojo uses is the finest – from the fresh cut french fries all the way to the buns surrounding your burger.
The french fry mantra at Mojo is: “Potato in the morning, french fry in the afternoon.”
Most places serve fries that have been frozen. For how long? Who knows, but studies show that some fries may sit for as many as 18 months before they reach the fryer. Freezing things changes the composition of potatoes, which means it alters their taste, and that’s why Mojo fries are never frozen.
Mojo is also very picky about its buns, too. Carole and Peter went through four different bakeries before selecting their current vendor, Orowheat, who makes them a bun with just the right texture and taste.
The hot dogs and chicken are also top notch. Mojo uses Big Reds, a Chicago-style hot dog that’s 100% beef and additive-free.
Happy Dan chicken from Martinelli Farms is the poultry Mojo uses for its sandwiches and sand dollars. It’s also an all-natural product from chickens that are treated humanely in large, temperature controlled buildings. They’re raised in a healthy environment, so it just makes sense that they taste better.
Many people comment about the unique décor at Mojo. They like the airy, Hawaiian feel, the flat screen TV’s, (one for the adults and another for the children at kid’s eye level); the open kitchen and the art on the walls. It all adds to up to being a place that makes customers feel laid back and relaxed. It’s like going to the Islands without ever leaving San Jose.
One of the best things about Mojo is the people that work there. Employees at Mojo are like immediate family. “We want them to succeed. We teach them to think.” Peter said. “We don’t just hire them. We really get to know them. We meet their families and friends and they become part of the Mojo team. My hope is that one day many of them will run new Mojo locations as they open.”
The Mojo training method for superior customer service is unique.
“When a customer comes in, I train my employees to act like that customer is their mother-in-law that they’re meeting for the first time.” Peter explained. Everything – the presentation, the cleanliness, the attention to detail – had better be perfect if you ever want to impress the toughest critic of all – that ‘ol mother-in-law.”
And because of this great combination of service and product, Mojo customer return rate is unprecedented. “We have a very high customer return ratio, between 70-80%, which means we get a minimum of 7 out of 10 people to come back. How do we do this? With systems that produce consistently high-quality, great tasting food in a nice environment for a good value.”
What does the future hold for Mojo?
“We want to continue validating the idea that people today are becoming more aware of what’s in their food. To build upon the fresh product, cooked to order concept.” Peter said. “And to open more Mojo restaurants, initially in the Bay Area. We want to continue spreading the ‘Mojo Burger Experience’; building brand loyalty through consistent, superior quality and value for all our customers.”
If you want to find out more about Mojo Burger, visit their web site at: www.mojoburger.com.
The address for Mojo Burger is 6041 Snell Avenue, San Jose, CA 95123 (408) 281-1345. When you go in there ask to meet Peter -- he is like the local God of hamburgers. And tell him "Big Ed" sent you!)